Ukrainian forces continued their rout of Russian troops in the northeast part of the country on Monday, after days of unprecedented gains in the six-month war.
Kyiv claimed to have liberated another 20 villages in the area between Kharkiv and the eastern Donbas region in the past 24 hours, pushing all the way to the Russian border in some places and taking many Russian prisoners.
“They understand the hopelessness of their situation,” a Ukrainian military intelligence spokesperson said of the surrendering Russians.
Their comrades, to a large degree, retreated, with Russian units in the area pulling back across the nearby Russian border, according to the assessment of US intelligence.
The drastic change in momentum comes after months of stalemate, with Russian forces stalling out in their attempt to seize the whole of the Donbas region after taking the northern province of Luhansk in early July.
For weeks following, the war played out in artillery and air strikes — Russia pummeling Ukrainian cities from afar, and Kyiv’s forces responding with new, Western-made long-range rockets, targeting supply routes and ammunition depots throughout the Russian-occupied south and east.
Two weeks ago, Kyiv began a long-awaited counterattack on the occupied Kherson province in the south — one part of a one-two punch revealed when Ukrainian forces launched a surprise attack in the north last week.
By Monday, it appeared the Ukrainians had forced the retreat of Russian forces west of the Oskil River, and possibly beyond.
With the capture late last week of Kupyansk — a railway hub on the banks of the Oskil — Kyiv had effectively severed a major Russian supply line.
The liberation of Izyum over the weekend, the city where Russian troops massed for their push into the Donbas this summer, was a similar blow to Russia’s regional logistics.
Moscow refused to acknowledge the Ukrainian resurgence on Monday.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dodged when asked if Russian President Vladimir Putin still had confidence in his military leadership.
“The special military operation continues. And it will continue until the goals that were originally set are achieved,” Peskov said.
In a rare departure from the Kremlin line, however, Russian media was not so sanguine.
“People who convinced President Putin that the operation will be fast and effective … these people really set up all of us,” former parliament member Boris Nadezhdin said on NTV television. “We’re now at the point where we have to understand that it’s absolutely impossible to defeat Ukraine using these resources and colonial war methods.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities claimed to have taken some 300 square miles of territory along the southern front towards Kherson.
But Kirill Stremousov, a Russian-installed occupation leader in Kherson, downplayed any Ukrainian threat to the region.
“In Kherson there is no panic,” he said on Telegram.
With Post wires